Under Article 243 G of the Constitution of India as well as the Panchayat Act of the State all the three tiers of Panchayats require to prepare plans for their areas. Some States conducted various experiments on planning from below by the Panchayat bodies and a simplified procedure for preparation of people-centered and participatory plan has been evolved in terms of its format for data collection and analysis in respect of different sectors. Experience shows that it requires tremendous amount of sustained facilitation by dedicated experts for being able to prepare GP plans and therefore, takes time to replicate. The external facilitation also leads to acquisition of local capacities for replicating such exercises in future. The Panchayat plans will be duly integrated into the District Plans.
The institutional Strengthening component is mainly confined to the five main pillars of the strategy to strengthening Panchayati Raj under the project districts:
- Ensuring role clarity between different levels of Governments and Panchayats through ‘Activity Mapping’,
- Ensuring that financial allocations to Panchayats match the functional assignments and are separately and clearly indicated in the State budgets through a separate Panchayat sector window,
- Ensuring that participative plans are prepared at each Panchayat level, which are then consolidated at the block level and finally at the district level into the district plan,
- Strengthening the capabilities of local governments in core areas of public financial management such as planning, collection of own revenues, budgeting, procurement, financial management, reporting and auditing; and
- Deepening accountability of local governments to citizens through strengthening opportunities for citizen participation and review through gram sabhas, particularly historically marginalized groups. Most states have taken actions though in differing degrees to empower the panchayats and are in different stages of progress.
Core Institutional Capacity Building
India has a PRI system as legitimate as any other body for governance in this country. The system gets its life & blood from the 73rd amendment of the Indian Constitution. Many Indian states have adopted the spirit of the 73rd amendment to an exhilarating state. The recent initiative in Bihar with the support of World Bank is yet another genuine step of the state government to help the state achieve the aspiration of the local self governance through the Panchayati Raj Institutions with Panchayat elections in 2001 & 2006 and the enactment of the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act, 2006. The state has beyond doubt drawn inspirations from the states which have strong PRI systems. However, Bihar aspires to achieve far more through strengthening the institutions under Panchayati Raj. The intention of the state government is to ensure the concept of local self governance at the doorsteps of the people. The concept of “Aapki Sarkar Aapke Dwar” is just the reflection of the state government’s commitment to decentralization of power to the Panchayats.
In order to strengthen and accelerate the process of rural decentralization and to make PRIs effective institutions and tools for socio-economic development of the rural people and visioning them as strong Institutions of good governance & self-governance, the series of reforms were initiated which are being consistently pursued by Government of Bihar with strong commitment. It was realized that the actual benefit of PRI system is unachievable without strengthening the units of governance under the Gram Panchayat. It is, hence, proposed to ensure that with the Bihar Panchayat Strengthening Project that the state shall make adequate investments in the institution development under the PRI system at the level of Gram Panchayat. Capacity building of PRI involves various interventions which lead to better functioning in terms of governance, improved delivery of services to the citizens and utilization of available resources more efficiently. In order to strengthen PRIs as strong institutions of self & good governance, capacity building programmes has to be designed accordingly which define the functional domain of PRIs more specifically to enable them to focus their activities, in improving the quality of services delivered by them and respond to citizens’ demand for diversifying the areas of service.
Planning process at the GP level cannot be sustained and quality of service delivery cannot be improved without strengthening the GPs as institutions. The other two tiers of PRI namely Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti also need to be strengthened to provide a wider institutional context, coordination and leadership to ensure that all three tiers of PRI institutions work in synergy to optimize benefits of the decentralized rural governance to the people at large. So interventions for institutional strengthening and installation of planning process will need to go together. Institutional strengthening in this regard will need a two-pronged support from top in terms of policy decisions, mandates, resources, manpower and capacity and a push from below. It transpires that translating all the reforms in rural local governance into reality and institutionalization of participatory planning process will require huge support for capacity building of PRIs and their support institutions.
Capacity building interventions for PRIs are multi-dimensional, which can be classified into the following categories:
- Decentralised and participatory planning process , implementation & monitoring
- Organizational dynamics and strengthening intra-tier, inter-tier, inter-institutional and inter-sector linkages and inter-personal relationships
- Manpower management with clear responsibility mapping in respect of various tasks and programmes
- More effective service delivery
- Management of various programmes/schemes with enhanced skills
- Active participation of vulnerable(women/SC/ST) in decentralized planning & decision making process
Institutional capacity implies procedures, systems, structure, roles & responsibilities, decision- making, transparency and accountability, planning, implementation and monitoring, and also mechanisms for building linkages with others. Capacity building activities for PRIs would include a totality of inputs needed by the functionaries of PRIs and their support institutions to perform their assigned responsibilities more effectively and efficiently and to improve the quality of services expected from them. Capacity building interventions for them would address attainment of adequate knowledge, overall awareness, appropriate attitude, adequate skills and self-confidence following adult learning principles and would include themes like motivation, commitment, values, self-confidence etc.